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Bowel Management Program after Spinal Cord Injury

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 7, 2024.

What is a bowel management program?

You may have trouble controlling or moving your bowels after a spinal cord injury. A bowel management program helps you control your bowel movements and prevent constipation or impaction. Impaction is when bowel movements get stuck in your rectum or colon. A bowel management program includes food and fluid intake, activity, medications, and scheduled bowel care. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best bowel management program for you.

Why else is a bowel management program important?

A bowel management program can help prevent autonomic dysreflexia (AD). AD is a medical emergency that causes very high blood pressure. Triggers of AD include constipation and impaction. AD is more likely to happen if you have a spinal cord injury at or above T7 or T8.

What do I need to know about foods, liquids, and bowel management?

Food and liquids are an important part of your bowel management program. Certain foods can help you have regular bowel movements. Liquids can help prevent constipation and soften your bowel movements. Your healthcare provider will tell you if you need to be on a special diet. The following are tips about food and liquids that will help manage your bowel movements:

What do I need to know about activity and bowel management?

Activity can help keep your bowels moving. Your healthcare provider can help you find activities that are safe for you. The following are examples of how you can stay active:

What do I need to know about medicines and bowel management?

Medicines, such as stool softeners, laxatives, enemas, and suppositories, can help you have regular bowel movements. These medicines increase bowel activity and make your bowel movements softer. Take your medicines as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects.

What do I need to know about scheduled bowel care?

Scheduled bowel care means planning a time to have a bowel movement every day. Scheduled bowel care may help train your body to have regular bowel movements. You may schedule bowel movements 1 to 2 times each day or more. You may instead schedule bowel care for every other day. You and your healthcare provider can decide which schedule is right for you.

What can I do during scheduled bowel care to help me have a bowel movement?

Your healthcare provider may tell you to do any of the following to help you have a bowel movement:

Why should I keep a bowel care record?

A bowel care record helps you and your healthcare providers know if your bowel program is working. Write down the following information after each scheduled bowel care:

When should I seek immediate care?

The following may be symptoms of autonomic dysreflexia:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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